Last night, I helped my son set up his new iPhone. The usual process I follow is to back a device up using iTunes and then restore to the new device. But yesterday, for some reason iTunes refused to detect my son's old iPhone. While there was an easy workaround, it occurred to me that iTunes is no longer a required piece of software even if you live completely in Apple's walled garden.
Almost 20 years ago, Apple acquired an application called SoundJam MP which they eventually repurposed and renamed to become iTunes.
Back then, the focus was purely on managing your music library and allowing you to sync to the iPod.
Flash forward a decade or so, and Apple was into apps, movies, TV shows, ring-tones, podcasts and music. And iTunes expanded to handle all those different media types as well as managing iPhones. As a result, it's become something of a franken-app that tries to do many things and has a reputation for being a crappy app.
Why iTunes Isn't Needed
Last night, I had my son's old iPhone sitting next to a newer phone that had been factory reset. When a new iPhone (or one that has been factory reset) is near an old iPhone, the new iPhone offers the option to restore from the old one. So, the need for iTunes for setting up a new device is now gone.
Apple removed app management from iTunes last year so the need for iTunes to manage any iOS device is gone.
Music management has changed substantially over the last few years. Now that music is largely streamed through the likes of Apple Music and Spotify, and you can buy music directly on devices, the need for iTunes is further negated.
The same goes for movies and TV shows which are either streamed or directly purchased on devices.
Backups can be handled using iCloud although you'll need to spring for some extra storage given Apple's meagre 5GB allocation. But $4.95 per month buys you 200GB which, through Family Sharing, can be used by several family members.
In other words, other than local media management, most of what iTunes does has been offloaded.
What Will iTunes Be Replaced With?
The biggest hint that Apple is planning to kill iTunes comes from iOS. Apple introduced the Movies app last year. I can see them doing the same with macOS and Windows. Similarly, I can see them doing the same with music.
Specific apps for video and audio media will simplify management of the media you have stored. iTunes has become increasingly cluttered and hard to use. Splitting it into specific apps makes sense and will simplify things for users. Or you can even ditch iTunes already and use other software for managing your local media - assuming DRM isn't an issue.
iOS device management has all but been removed from iTunes. If you have an iOS device there's almost no reason to use iTunes unless you have non Apple Store content to sync.
Podcasts can be handled either directly on end-point devices or with specific PC software.
The reality is that iTunes has grown and the user experience has deteriorated to the point where it's a source of much frustration. Windows users, in particular, seem to have more reliability issues with iTunes and I'm sure they'd be happy to see the back of it.
With iOS now becoming almost completely independent of iTunes, the only reasons for using it are to deal tho legacy media. Apple could handle that either by licensing their FairPlay DRM to a third party or creating new apps for each type of media.
What do you think? Is it times for Apple to send iTunes to the software graveyard?